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Hive reuse - how much comb/honey stores to retain?

 
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DurangoKid
Nurse Bee


Joined: 15 Jul 2014
Posts: 36
Location: 7500', Durango, Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2017 9:08 pm    Post subject: Hive reuse - how much comb/honey stores to retain? Reply with quote

I had very robust colony which was killed off during a -29C cold snap in December. I plan to move a new queen and package into the hive in a few weeks (queen cells still being built). I intend to leave a few of the new, unused combs for the new colony. Is there any danger retaining a few of the combs containing honey stores as well?

Cheers

dK
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 9:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my opinion, the cold in itself should not kill off a "robust colony", albeit, that is a very low temperature. Ensuring the hive is better insulated and sheltered from wind chill is important if you are repopulating.

If the hive was "robust" heading into winter that would suggest there was no indication of foul brood, so the comb and honey should be fine to reuse. That said, ensure that the combs you give them are worker brood combs, otherwise it is counter productive giving them comb that does not meet their needs.....a package, like a swarm, needs to raise brood first and foremost. It is subsequent generations' job to store honey, so giving them "honey" combs with their larger cell size may just interfere with their foundation brood nest. If you decide to do so, keep them to the back of the hive, so the smaller celled brood nest can be built forward of it, uncompromised.

I hope that makes sense..... basically, your package need brood cells for the queen to lay workers into. The cells in honey comb are usually bigger and will disrupt the continuity of the brood nest if placed in the wrong location in the hive. Personally, if I was happy the hive was disease free and the comb was only a few seasons old, I would give the package all the brood comb, even if some of it is a bit dark and/or a little mouldy. The bees will clean it up and use it. The advantage of that comb is that it has been seasoned with propolis and will give the package a real head start.
I would probably harvest the honey.
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DurangoKid
Nurse Bee


Joined: 15 Jul 2014
Posts: 36
Location: 7500', Durango, Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barbara,

To better set the context the colony was only eight months old. All the comb was drawn and filled by them so it, too, was only a few months old.

It was a large, hard working colony with no signs of pest or disease. As I performed the post-mortem this spring I noticed that the bees were not clustered into one large cluster as I usually observe. But, rather, in 4-5 smaller custers dispersed throughout the hive. Many bees died head first in the comb. I did not find a queen but the large number of dead bees made that task difficult. It would seem that the colony lacked leadership or unity. Many of my smaller colonies survived that cold spell with very few losses.

I have begun to raise my own queens but this particular queen was purchased from a local, natural apiary. I don't think it is neccessarily a factor but I thought it worth mentioning.

My current thinking, based upon your insight, is to provide 3-4 clean brood combs for the new colony and remove the honey stores for now. Some of those combs are cross-combed so I will harvest those. I will retain a few of the honey stores in the event they have a rough go of it and require a boost in the autumn. Otherwise, I will harvest it as well.

Thank you for your insight.

Ian
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1564
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The fact that smaller colonies survived the same cold spell definitely suggests there was a problem other than the temperature especially with there being multiple small clusters rather than a single one. I would agree that there may have been a problem with the queen for them to be so disunited.

Your plan sounds good and I wish you well with repopulating it.

Regards

Barbara
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AndyC
Scout Bee


Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 284
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a matter of interest wind chill has no effect on inanimate objects such as a wooden box.
The surface of the object does not go below ambient no matter how strong the wind blows and the same with anything inside.
Having said that -29C is bloody cold.
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DurangoKid
Nurse Bee


Joined: 15 Jul 2014
Posts: 36
Location: 7500', Durango, Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Sat Apr 15, 2017 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

> Having said that -29C is bloody cold.

Indeed it is. It has not been that cold for at least 10 years - if not longer. Adding insult to injury there was no snow to provide insulation. The hives were all wrapped in thermal blankets and protected on the windward sides with straw bale walls.

The joys of beekeeping at 2,500 meters...

Ian

P.S. In the interest of continuity I will provide an update as the summer progresses.
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